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The alpha version of a software product is a pre-release early version that is part of a dedicated testing process. Most software products move through a multi-step process before being released to the public. An alpha version is part of that system for developing efficient, accurate and bug-free software programs.
In general, the alpha version is one of the earliest manifestations of a software product. Some companies may develop various kinds of “pre-alpha versions” which consist of prototypes or “drafts” of a program.
The alpha version of a program corresponds to the alpha phase of release. Typically, in this phase, internal company testers are using white box testing to look at source code and evaluate products. They may then use some types of gray or black box testing at the end of the alpha phase.
After the alpha phase, there is a beta phase where a beta version of software is released to a specific group of users. The user-directed testing mainly focuses on black box techniques: rather than looking at source code, users run the programs and see whether any bugs or glitches are evident.
Although alpha and beta phases have been enormously useful in the early days of software engineering, new processes like agile software development, devOps, and the phrase “release early and often” are leading to more sophisticated software release models, where alpha and beta may have less prominence.